About Me

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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Puritan Thought for the Day

"Is it thus, O my soul? hath the Lord Christ indeed discovered his will, to thee for his Spouse? What, he that is so holy, to marry such an impure wretch as thou art? O how should this but melt-thee into a flame of love?. . . O my soul, henceforth cling to thy Savior, go out of thy self, and creep to him, and affect not onely union, but very unity with him; bathe thy self hereafter again and again, many and many a time in those delicious intimacies of thy Spiritual marriage."

—Isaac Ambrose (1657)

Friday, 20 January 2012

Jesus v. Religion

Here is the original video that got everyone talking:

Here is a response:

It all hangs on how we use the word "religion." For the first guy "religion" = mere concern with outward appearance and not about relationship with God or heart-motivated holy living.

Of course, if that is what "religion" means then obviously Jesus hates it. On that definition then the first guy is right.

And he does make a lot of good points about the importance of inward religion and how Jesus hates hypocrisy.

But I am worried.

The first guy turns Jesus' critique of hypocrisy and double-standard religion into a general critique of "religion."

Jesus was not against institutional religion any more than the prophets in ancient Israel were. Criticizing abuses from within is not the same as rejecting everything. Do remember that Jesus was a torah-obedient Jew (albeit at the liberal end of the interpretation of the torah)! He celebrated religious festivals, took part in religious rituals, and followed religious laws.

The problem is that guy 1 defines "religion" as "mere appearance" (making the word into a negative word) and then simply applies that negative definition to anything that has seen itself as "religion" (i.e., against the institutional church).

Jesus is against hypocritical religion; he is against mere outward religion; and he is against heart-less religion.

He is not, however, against religion nor even against outward behaviour and religious rituals. He is for godly religion.

The church will ever need its prophets to offer critique from within (so I value a lot of what guy 1 says) but this critique has moved beyond its limits as a reasonable and valid critique into a over-fast dismissal of institutional Christianity based on a caricature of it.

Nevertheless, rather than rejecting it as mere rhetoric I think we can filter it and reappropriate it as a helpful critique from a Christian of some problems within churches.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Driscoll on Hell and a Manly God

Here is a part of Mark Driscoll's now infamous interview with Justin Brierly on Premier Radio. They were in the process of discussing women in church leadership.

The whole final section of the interview was not Mark Driscoll's finest hour. Most of the online discussion since has been on his macho view of men and women and his insight into modern British preachers (i.e., there are no courageous young preachers in Britain — they are all cowards: girly men not manly men). I won't comment on those issues (though I could!)

The following little comment did surprise me a little:

Driscoll: Do you believe in a conscious literal eternal torment of hell?

Brierley: What has that got to do with the issue of women in leadership, if you don’t mind me asking?

Driscoll: It does. It depends on your view of God. Is God like a mom who just embraces everyone? Or is he like a father who also protects, and defends, and disciplines? If you won’t answer the question, I think I know the answer.
Mark Driscoll has a manly God not a girly God. Apparently, if one thinks of God in "masculine" ways (as opposed to pink and girly ways) then you must believe in eternal, conscious torment.

I beg your pardon!

If tormenting people forever and ever is a "masculine" way to behave then I am very concerned for what Driscoll thinks it is for "men to be men." It sounds like being masculine is about being a violent brute!

But perhaps that's not fair. Driscoll goes on to explain that the reason why a manly God torments sinners forever is that he is a "father who also protects, and defends, and disciplines." Now I am much more sympathetic to "masculine" understood in these ways.

Oh . . . hold on . . . now I'm confused.

God torments sinners in hell because he is protecting them? eh?
Defending them? huh?
Disciplining them? urm? Disciplining them . . . forever . . . with no chance to improve? How is this discipline?

I think — I hope — that Mark Driscoll has not thought this through clearly and that it was simply an offhand remark; that he put the phone down and thought, "Man! Why did I say that dumb stuff!"

As a theological argument it is vacuous. If Mark would prefer that in more manly terms: it's utter bollocks!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Defending Constantine

I love subversive, revisionist histories so I am very excited to read Peter Leithart's book Defending Constantine. I have always been inclined towards the view that Contantine's "conversion" was a bad move for Christianity. It seems to be pretty much standard that modern Christians have to reject Constantine and his effect on the church. The story is usually told as a Fall narrative — where everything went wrong. So, I followed the crowd because life is short and I don't have time to research the history myself.

However, I have also felt that I am very much working with caricatures of history and that the truth is a lot more murkey. So I was very excited to see a book coming out and taking the opposite view. I picked up a copy and am reading it at the moment.

I am also currently reading Leithart's book on Athanasias and that is excellent. The guy knows what he is talking about. So I am looking to have my caricatures about Constantine challenged and for a bit more grey and a bit less black and white. Not sure where I'll end up on this one but I'm looking forward to the adventure.

Naming the Trinity (Soulen's big idea)

I am currently reading Kendall Soulen's new book The Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity. It is, in my view, a very important theological book that will be much discussed for some years to come.

The whole book focuses on a single issue and proposes an answer by means of a single, simple idea.

The issue is this: how should we name God, the Holy Trinity?

Soulen proposes that there is not one but three "most appropriate" patterns for naming the Trinity; and each of those patterns of naming correspond to one of the three persons of the Trinity.

Pattern 1: the theological pattern. This is associated with the first person of the Trinity. It focuses on the divine name of God — YHWH. Soulen does a magnificent job of putting the divine name YHWH back at the centre of Christian theology. He convincingly shows that it is not only the OT revelation of God but also the NT revelation that is dominated by this name.

The first person is the mysterious one whose name this is. He is also the one who bestows this "name above every name" upon the second person. The third person brings about the recognition of and glorification of this name.

Pattern 2: the christological pattern. This is the pattern of naming that most people are most familiar with. This pattern is primarily associated with the second person of the Trinity and the focus is on divine presence. The key pattern of naming is that of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Pattern 3: The pneumatological pattern: This pattern is most associated with the third person of the Trinity and is associated with the theme of divine blessing. Here a vast multiplicity of names flow, even those not found in Scripture. For instance, Augustine's famous "Lover, Beloved, Spirit of Love" pattern for naming the Trinity is, according to Soulen, legitimate following the third pattern of naming.

Soulen maintains that all three patterns of naming the persons are equally important and "most appropriate" — Christians need to keep all three in balance in their theology and spirituality.

There is a lot to say about this book — and I need to ponder it for a while before I draw firm conclusions — but I simply wanted to flag up its key point. I think that Soulen is one of the more interesting theologians working today and this book reinforces my regard for him.

I have to say that part 1 of the book, which offers a historical journey through naming the Trinity in Christian theology, is absolutely fascinating. His analysis is very thought provoking.

Vol. 2 will consider how this new paradigm allows some contemporary trinitarian debates to be navigated (e.g., debates on the use of masculine language for God) and also the issue of its relevance to discussions about the immanent Trinity (vol. 1 is focused on the economic Trinity). I can't wait for it!